What skills will set you apart in the age of automation?
Robots may be able to beat us at chess, but they still have trouble when it comes to soft skills — making sense of human behavior.
DAVID EPSTEIN: In a rapidly changing work world it's important to be a constant learner, to be able to change and evolve your skills. Especially when we're facing automation of certain types of work. So, I want you to think about a spectrum of work that gets automated. On one part of the spectrum is chess. Chess is based on rules. It's very clear. Patterns repeat. That is a great situation for a computer. Computers are really good at patterns which is why they made exponential progress in chess and now the chess app on your iPhone can beat the best human chess player in the world.
In the middle of the spectrum maybe think about self-driving cars. Self-driving cars we've made great progress. There are rules of the road so they're regular repeating patterns, but there are some significant challenges that remain. And on the far end of the spectrum we have something like say cancer research where IBM's Watson had a lot of hype but actually was underperformed at hype in such a way that when I talk to AI researchers some of them were worried that it would damage the reputation of AI in health research going forward. As one oncologist I talked to put it, the reason Watson destroyed at Jeopardy but failed in cancer research was because we know the answers to Jeopardy. So if you want to have skills that continue to be valuable you have to keep learning things and you have to be in some of these more amorphous fields almost.
So, I want to share one example of how this has played out in the past. When ATMs were created the thought was that this would do away with bank tellers for good, right. Bank tellers did repetitive transactions and so you wouldn't need them anymore. But, in fact, as more ATMS came online there were more jobs for bank tellers. What happened was that each branch needed fewer tellers so each branch of a bank became cheaper and banks opened more branches so there were more tellers. But the job of teller changed completely. It was no longer someone who could do repetitive transactions. Rather, they had to learn marketing skills and customer service and have this much wider array of broad skills because those broader skills and integrating different types of information are what's difficult for computers.
The psychologist Robin Hogarth characterized domains of learning as going from the kind to the wicked. Kind learning environments were areas where patterns repeated. There was a wealth of previous data. There were clear rules and feedback was apparent. And in those kinds of areas like chess computers really thrive. On the other end of the spectrum are wicked environments where not all the information is clear. Rules don't necessarily repeat. People aren't waiting for each other to take turns. Feedback may be delayed. If you get it at all it may be inaccurate. And human behavior is involved. Those are areas where computers don't do as well. They require a lot of the so-called soft skills. How to deal with human behavior and how to adjust to things that are changing in real time and interpret signals that are very difficult to quantify. That's an area that's very, very difficult for computers but humans have a huge advantage. So, those kinds of soft skills are really important and will be for a long time to come.
- In a rapidly changing work world it's critical to continue evolving your skills — this is especially true as automation's presence in the workforce increases.
- Robots are good at working off of knowledge that we already know, however, they aren't that great when it comes to developing original ideas.
- Though robots are good at jobs founded on patterns and data points, they currently don't excel when it comes to soft skills — that is, they have difficulty dealing with human behavior. On our end, soft skills help us make sense of chaotic environments where the dynamic human element is constantly in play.
- The Robots are coming! Future of Jobs in the Age of Automation ... ›
- Automation Nightmare: Philosopher Warns We Are Creating a World ... ›
- Over 30% of All American Jobs to Be Lost to Automation by 2030 ... ›
Young people could even end up less anxiety-ridden, thanks to newfound confidence
- The coronavirus pandemic may have a silver lining: It shows how insanely resourceful kids really are.
- Let Grow, a non-profit promoting independence as a critical part of childhood, ran an "Independence Challenge" essay contest for kids. Here are a few of the amazing essays that came in.
- Download Let Grow's free Independence Kit with ideas for kids.
Philosophers like to present their works as if everything before it was wrong. Sometimes, they even say they have ended the need for more philosophy. So, what happens when somebody realizes they were mistaken?
Sometimes philosophers are wrong and admitting that you could be wrong is a big part of being a real philosopher. While most philosophers make minor adjustments to their arguments to correct for mistakes, others make large shifts in their thinking. Here, we have four philosophers who went back on what they said earlier in often radical ways.
Or is doubt a self-fulfilling prophecy?
The future of learning will be different, and now is the time to lay the groundwork.
- The coronavirus pandemic has left many at an interesting crossroads in terms of mapping out the future of their respective fields and industries. For schools, that may mean a total shift not only in how educators teach, but what they teach.
- One important strategy moving forward, thought leader Caroline Hill says, is to push back against the idea that getting ahead is more important than getting along. "The opportunity that education has in this moment to really push students and think about what is the right way to live, how do we do it and how do we do it in a way that doesn't hurt or rob the dignity of other people?"
- Hill also argues that now is the time for bigger swings and for removing the barriers that limit education. The online space is boundary free and provides educators with new opportunities to connect with students around the world.